Bromate in chlorinated drinking waters: occurrence and implications for future regulation.


Bromate is a contaminant of commercially produced solutions of sodium hypochlorite used for disinfection of drinking water. However, no methodical approach has been carried out in U.S. drinking waters to determine the impact of such contamination on drinking water quality. This study utilized a recently developed method for quantitation of bromate down to 0.05 microg/L to determine the concentration of bromate present in finished waters that had been chlorinated using hypochlorite. Forty treatment plants throughout the United States using hypochlorite in the disinfection step were selected and the levels of bromate in the water both prior to and following the addition of hypochlorite were measured. The levels of bromate in the hypochlorite feedstock were also measured and together with the dosage information provided by the plants and the amount of free chlorine in the feedstock, it was possible to calculate the theoretical level of bromate that would be imparted to the water. A mass balance was performed to compare the level of bromate in finished drinking water samples to that found in the corresponding hypochlorite solution used for treatment. Additional confirmation of the source of elevated bromate levels was provided by monitoring for an increase in the level of chlorate, a co-contaminant of hypochlorite, atthe same point in the treatment plant where bromate was elevated. This study showed that bromate in hypochlorite-treated finished waters varies across the United States based on the source of the chemical feedstock, which can add as much as 3 microg/L bromate into drinking water. Although this is within the current negotiated industry standard that allows up to 50% of the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for bromate in drinking water to be contributed by hypochlorite, it would be a challenge to meet a tighter standard. Given that distribution costs encourage utilities to purchase chemical feedstocks from local suppliers, utilities in certain regions of the United States may be put at a distinct disadvantage if future lower regulations on bromate levels in finished drinking water are put into place. Moreover, with these contaminant levels it would be almost impossible to lower the maximum permissible contribution to bromate in finished water from hypochlorite to 10% of the MCL, which is the norm for other treatment chemicals. Until this issue is resolved, it will be difficult to justify a lowering of the bromate MCL from its current level of 10 to 5 microg/L or lower.

Cite this paper

@article{Weinberg2003BromateIC, title={Bromate in chlorinated drinking waters: occurrence and implications for future regulation.}, author={Howard S. Weinberg and Carrie A Delcomyn and Vasu Unnam}, journal={Environmental science & technology}, year={2003}, volume={37 14}, pages={3104-10} }